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Stanton County session to share wind energy information

April 12, 2017 GMT

STANTON — Another informational session on wind energy, including discussion of landowner issues and contracts, was scheduled to take place here Tuesday evening.

LaLene Bates, Stanton County zoning administrator, attended a session last month on the topic in Pierce County and has invited the same presenters to Stanton County to share information.

The meeting, which is open to the public, was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Stanton Community Building, which is located on the Stanton County Fairgrounds.

The presenters were to be Dave Vavra of Doniphan, who specializes in landowner issues, and F. John Hay of Lincoln, a University of Nebraska Extension educator who specializes in energy-related issues.

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Hay told more than 50 people who crowded into the Lied Pierce Public Library last month that Nebraska has been late to develop its wind energy potential compared to other states for a variety of reasons, including that Nebraska was a public power state and legislation had to be created so private companies could take advantage of the federal tax incentives available for wind generation.

Vavra said that when it comes to farmers leasing their land for commercial wind facilities, it’s not like leasing their land to someone to raise a crop.

“I’m not for wind. I’m not against wind, but I’m for the protection of the landowner. That is most important,” he said.

Vavra said one of the most important things to consider are liability-related issues. While the chances of an accident might be remote, regular farm insurance probably won’t cover any injuries caused by wind turbines, he said.

One of the most frequently asked questions that Vavra receives from landowners is how much a wind energy company should pay to place a turbine on their land.

“The best aspect is to get a percent of the gross sales, but then you have to define what the gross sales are in the contract,” he said. “The dollar amount, while important, is not the most important. The liability could be quite major, especially if the wind farm goes defunct, to protect the landowner.”

Vavra said he advises landowners to work together and hire an attorney to represent them in negotiating with wind energy companies. They need to present a united front, he added.

Some people might think making use of their family attorney is adequate, but Vavra said that might not be true.

“If I was going to have a brain surgery, I probably wouldn’t go to a proctologist for advice,” he said. “Both are doctors, but they are not all the same.”

Vavra, who has helped groups negotiate wind lease agreements, said one area he concentrates on is the liability issues. With one company, he remembers the company told him that the liability issues are a small concern.

“I said, ‘If it is such a small concern, then you should cover it,’ ” he said. “They (the company) walked away.”